Tampa Bay Rays catcher,  Nick Ciuffo, entering his third year with club.

Rays top prospect throwing out the pressure

First-round pick Ciuffo working on improving offence

Port Charlotte, Fla. – Nick Ciuffo, the first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays is putting all the pressure aside as a top prospect.

The South Carolina native was drafted 21st overall in the 2013 Major League Baseball (MLB) June Amateur Draft by the Rays. He was the first catcher ever taken by the club as their first-round pick.

Being selected in the first round comes with high expectations in the MLB. For Ciuffo, that pressure is gone and he is taking it day by day.

“I don’t feel it anymore, but I felt it around my first summer,” he said.

When Ciuffo signed his rookie contract with the Tampa Bay Rays he received $1,974,700 as part of his deal.

The catcher said it felt like he had to prove to everyone around him that he deserved the money. The team did not draft him because of what they think he can do at 18 but what they think he can do at the age of 24 or 25.

In February this year Ciuffo joined the major league club to work out with the team for a couple of days.

“It’s always fun to go to the big league camp because you get to see what Evan Longoria and those guys do on a regular basis,” he said. “It’s always good to learn from the best.”

Ciuffo has shown promise of becoming a great defensive catcher. He has a quick pop time, and the ability to make quick and accurate throws. In 2015 he threw out 45 percent of base steal attempts and 48 percent in 2014.

While Ciuffo has been great defensively he has struggled offensively, hitting a .258 batting average. He also drove in 32 runs last year for the Bowling Green Hot Rods.

In the offseason Ciuffo received extra playing time with the Brisbane Bandits in the Australian Baseball League and said it helped become a better hitter.

“Getting extra at bats in the offseason I think will help a lot this year,” Ciuffo said. “I saw the ball and try to swing as hard as I could, hoping to have made contact. It worked out pretty well for me there, so I’m just going to take it to the season.”

Ciuffo is now entering his third season with the Rays and is happy with his progress. He says he is now making strides to reach his goal to one day make it to the majors.

“I’ve gotten a lot better since day one when I got here,” Ciuffo said. “The numbers offensively haven’t been great, but I’ve made strides in each part of the game.”